With Thursday through Sunday off work, we had planned to do another piece of Route 66. On Tuesday, a text from a friend in Dallas changed all that.
“I had my first bluebonnet sighting along the interstate near work!”
How To Take Pictures of Your Dog in the Bluebonnets of Texas
Step 1. Get yourself a Dallas friend and put them on bluebonnet watch. Tell them to call you as soon as they see their first bluebonnets.
Step 2. Relax. Plan a trip to somewhere else. Once that trip is planned, your friend will call you to say she has spotted bluebonnets on her way to work.
Step 3. Scramble to find a dog-friendly hotel room in Hill Country for THAT weekend. Book that room and GO.
If the bluebonnets are blooming in Dallas, they are popping up all over Hill Country. They are super-easy to find. Just put the windows down and drive.
Where to Book a Last Minute Dog Friendly Stay in Hill Country
It is highly unlikely you’ll find anything in Fredericksburg, and if you’re looking for that cute little Hill Country airbnb, good luck. It’s spring in Texas and the perfect time to visit. Not only that, the state just lifted Covid restrictions. Everyone who is tired of staying home is going there (or Florida). A chain is likely your best bet, and our go to for last minute dog-friendly accommodations has always been La Quinta. They had ONE room left in Marble Falls. We booked it for Thursday through Sunday.
This was quite unlike any LQ I’ve ever stayed. In fact, with it’s Tuscan themed decor, I have a feeling it was something else before Wyndham bought it. Our king suite with a balcony overlooked the Colorado River (that’s Lake Marble Falls, here) and downtown Marble Falls. We arrived just in time to catch the last bit of sunset over the water. After getting settled, we went in search of food.
Fair warning on your food search: it’s if it’s after 9 p.m., you won’t find anything but a wrap-around line at Whataburger or Sonic.
The one dog friendly spot open until 10 p.m. and located just 4 minutes from our hotel- Bear King Brewery– quit serving food at 8:45. You won’t find that info on their website or Facebook page though. We found out when we got there.
I ended up grabbing a Marie Callendar’s microwave meal from Walgreens. Back in the room, I had wine. After an eight and half hour drive and in anticipation of an all-day hunt for bluebonnets, we called it a night.
Safely Sniffing Out Bluebonnets With Your Pup
Our plans for Day 1 were to spend the morning in search of bluebonnets. I had a sightings map from the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce & CVB that gave me a general idea of where to start looking, but there’s no telling when or if you might find that picture perfect patch. We hoped our scavenger hunt would lead us to an Instaworthy spot, and maybe a winery or two. The flower Gods were on my side, however, and we struck gold, I mean blue, first thing.
When we opened the bedroom curtains on Friday morning, there, on the hillside next to our hotel, were the tiny lupines I’d coveted.
A blue carpet with little white specs was just big enough to see from our second floor window. The flowers hovered just inches from the ground. A new, upmapped patch, just for us.
Flower etiquette is super-important for future generations, but before you go traipsing off into the fields, there are few more things you should know. Let’s start with…
Rattlesnakes love bluebonnets.
I didn’t read this info on any website, but was warned by multiple Texas natives. Google local vets and call to confirm their hours and Covid policies. VitalPet Hope Animal Clinic is located in Marble Falls not too far from La Quinta. They reassured me that they DID have anti-venom in stock, as I suspect most Hill Country vets do, and would be ready in case of emergency.
In addition to being cautious of where you are stepping- wear those boots; you’re in Texas- you may want to apply some bug spray. I use the all-natural kind. When needed, Henri and I both get a healthy spray.
When you’re all done with your photo session, be sure to check your pup’s paws for burs. Traveling through the south, southeast, and coastal areas, we’ve gotten pretty familiar with bur removal. Throw some tweezers in your bag.
Visiting Marble Falls With Your Dog
Having knocked out our goal first thing, we had the rest of our trip to relax. We put the sightings map away and opted for a drive outside the main area of downtown to see what we might find.
More bluebonnets, cactus growing along fence lines, monarch butterflies floating through the air, and gorgeous lake scenery was our reward. A dead end finally sent us back to town for lunch and shopping.
Many of the shops and restaurants on Main Street are dog friendly and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you miss them. You’ll be doing yourself a greater wrong if you don’t take the time to chat with locals. But maybe that’s why you follow us.
Pandemic or not- I’m gonna talk to everybody. It’s a great strategy for really getting to know a place, and it can lead to some off the path adventures that you won’t discover in your guidebook.
Dog Friendly Downtown
The first place we stopped was Marta Stafford Fine Art. We saw another dog walking into the gallery. That dog was Miko, a large Great Dane/Lab mix who sometimes goes to work with his Mom. The gallery is located in a former 1930s bank lobby. The high ceilings and windows create an inviting space.
My favorite pieces were the wine accessories made from 150 million year old “Honeycomb Calcite”. In chatting with the shop owner about the calcite and the area in general, we were directed to Oli’s Kitchen for lunch.
Oli’s serves authentic Mexican cuisine and has a dog friendly patio in the back. We didn’t know how to access the patio, so I poked my head inside. Instead of directing us around back, they escorted us straight through the restaurant without batting an eye.
The waitress brought us water, happily filling and refilling Henri’s bowl, too. The lunch bowl was HUGE and more than enough for a midday meal. The shrimp appetizer and drinks were fresh and perfect.
In order to walk off that lunch, we hit a few more places before jumping back into the truck. Be sure you check out ReDid for eclectic farmhouse finds, vintage industrial, and the most delightful smell.
Next we visited The Rug Queen. Michele Hart specializes in rugs, but she’s also a local with a wealth of knowledge about the area. After selling us a mini-pie from the Texas Pie Company, she sent us packing down Slab Road to the most gorgeous creek and driving through LBJ Ranch to Llano.
She warned of steers in the road but promised more bluebonnets, saying that in a few weeks some of them would be waist-high.
This is a not to miss drive that will afford you views of everything there is to love about Texas- winding roads, rolling hills, bluebonnets, and rare Indian paintbrush sightings. You’ll even pass an old building with the word “HOWDY” painted on the side.
When you get to the end of the road, hang a right and head into Llano for some Cooper’s BBQ. We weren’t hungry but we had to have it, and so do you. They have the best burnt ends.
This little side trip is totally worth your afternoon. I could easily kill a few hours making freckles in that creek before heading to Cooper’s for dinner and a cold beer. If that’s what you do, please remember to pack some shade for your pooch and keep in mind that wet paw pads are much more susceptible to burning on hot rocks.
Dog Friendly Texas Distillery
By 4 o’clock in the afternoon, it had been a full first day. Naps were necessary before the evening excursion.
A friend had pointed me in the direction of a distillery in Dripping Springs. With “Songwriters in the Round Friday’s” and an on-site restaurant, Treaty Oak Distilling looked like the perfect place to spend a Friday evening.
The city of Dripping Springs, about 45 minutes from Marble Falls, is yet another place besides Fredericksburg that you might want to stay. If you visit their website and click “Events”, you’ll find a drop down menu chockfull of live music and activities. There is even a “pet friendly” tab.
When you get to Treaty Oaks, don’t be alarmed by the number of cars in the parking lot or the party bus/ shuttle vans. This place is HUGE. There is plenty of room to socially distance yourself from strangers.
Picnic tables, currently spaced at least 6 feet apart, are dispersed throughout the open area in front of a semi-truck turned stage. All employees are masked, and patrons are asked to wear face coverings in indoor spaces, as well as socially distance themselves in lines and such.
We made a beeline to the tasting room, only to discover a long line with little distance between parties. So much for guidelines!
A bit of wandering led us to an unmanned display table near the restaurant. An employee kindly directed us to the counter where we were able to start a tab that would also work in the gift shop and tasting room. We ordered a flight of gin and a flight of bourbon (I wasn’t drinking alone), and got the story of how Waterloo Antique Gin, one of the features on the gin flight, came to be.
Aged 2 years in first-use medium char American oak barrels, Waterloo Antique Gin was a hungover distiller’s happy accident. Not wanting to inhale too deeply after a night of over-indulgence, he accidentally dumped gin into a bourbon barrel. They perfected the mishap, and I brought two bottles home. While you can sip it neat or on the rocks, I’ve discovered I like it best as an Old Fashioned. It’s unique, flavorful, and soon to be gone.
While the food wasn’t the greatest, the venue is beyond spectacular. Beautiful Oak trees dot a 28-acre ranch and working distillery with distillery tours available every Saturday on the hour from 12:00- 5:00 p.m. Enjoy a stroll with your pooch, a game of baggo, or turn the kids loose on the playground while you kick back and enjoy the music.
Dog Friendly Places We Missed
I’m sad to say we missed some things in and around the Marble Falls area. In downtown, Rae’s Bar & Grill is a dog friendly spot that supports the SPCA dog walk and hosts twice a year adoption events. From their website, “All dogs (& some kids) need to be on a leash at all times.” You gotta love that!
Perissos Vineyard and Winery is a 16-acre estate vineyard and another thing we missed. Located in Burnet, it was recommended to us by locals as a great place to catch a sunset. With wines specifically crafted for giving back to the community, why wouldn’t you drink there?
Also located in Burnet is Inks Lake State Park. Hike off those boozy calories and wear out your pooch on 9 miles of trails, or earn yourself that glass of wine from Perissos paddling the designated no wake zone. Enjoy rocky hills, shady forests, or the Bird Blind constructed by master naturalists to serve as a wildlife viewing station.
The Dog Friendliest Town in Texas
I don’t know if Johnson City is really the dog friendliest town in Texas, but after we checked in here, I received several private messages from folks inviting us to visit their places of business. I think that’s “right nice”. For now, they keep the spirit stick.
It was about 10 a.m. on Day 2 of our adventure. We were headed through Johnson City to Fredericksburg for a fancy brunch at a downtown spot that was already on an hour-long wait. When I saw the “crawfish boil” sign at Proof & Cooper, that seemed a much better option. We flipped a U in the Johnson City Coffee Co parking lot, and grabbed a mocha and a dog treat. I’m glad we did.
This is where I tell you to avoid the crowds in Fredricksburg and enjoy the slower pace of a small Texas town.
Proof & Cooper is an Austin original with another location in Dripping Springs, and this one, Proof & Cooper at the Lumberyard, in Johnson City. Since the crawfish wasn’t quite ready and we were starving, we decided to order from the menu.
I got the fried chicken plate and a mimosa- a perfectly acceptable southern brunch. My traveling partner had the meat plate. Now, I don’t care what you get, it’s all delicious, but make sure your order comes with a biscuit. If I’d known then what I know now, I might have ordered a basket of them. After eating, we moved to a picnic table in the lumberyard to enjoy the sunshine and the music of the Hill Country Ramblers. We weren’t going to make it to Fredericksburg.
Leaving my truck parked at Proof & Cooper, I decided to walk off our brunch and explore downtown. We found one shop that was totally dog friendly and one that allowed “carried” dogs, but I’m betting we just didn’t hit the right places.
A grassy pit stop in Johnson City Park led us to the backside of Pecan Street Brewing. According to their website, they have a “pet friendly biergarten“. It looked and sounded pretty cool from the other side of the fence. People were causally parked around the front entrance, drinking beers and waiting about 20 minutes for a seat. I skipped the wait list and ordered a Crime & Punishment Stout from the waitress working curbside. She was nice enough to also bring Henri some water.
After finishing my beer, we made a run over to Wildseed Farms– the nation’s largest working wildflower farm- located about 20 minutes from Johnson City. I guess the recent cold snap hit the wildflower farm pretty hard. The fields we saw were nothing like the photos on the website. There was a field of bluebonnets, but they weren’t very tall. All in all, I was a little disappointed with the bloom activity. I can’t tell you not to go there, though.
The Brewbonnet Biergarten was bustling with live music and guests enjoying libations and homemade peach ice cream. There is a winery and a soon to be open tasting room. The fields will recover and strolls along their dog friendly paths will be colorful again.
To commemorate our Hill Country visit, I bought some bluebonnet and Indian Paintbrush seeds from the gift shop. I’m determined to make them grow next spring in Arkansas.
We ended the night back at Proof & Cooper. They have one TV in the outdoor bar area and promised it to us for Razorback basketball if we returned. Of course, we did. With bugs-a-plenty, we watched our Hogs bring in the win and even convinced a few Texans to pull for us.
All in all it was a great day in Hill Country, but if I were planning your trip for you, I’d suggest you do it a bit differently.
Planning a Dog Friendly Day in Johnson City
Get up earlier than we did (I am not a morning person). From Marble Falls take the Old Willow or Willow City Loop– that’s the scenic route- to Wildseed Farms. Have ice cream for breakfast. Pretend it’s yogurt.
Afterwards, head to Johnson City for brunch, served Saturday-Sunday 11-2, at Pecan Street Brewing. Have a cocktail next door at Moonshine Ridge while you wait on your table. Walk off your calories roaming downtown.
If you have kids in tow, send them to the Science Mill while you and the dog visit Farmhouse Vineyards. We didn’t make it to the vineyard, but they are one of the places that sent us a private message and invited us to come. That makes them worth a mention. If you stay at their dog-friendly ArBnB, this might be a good time to rest your pup and join the fam at the science museum.
End your day listening to live music and dinning at Proof & Cooper. Go to bed fat and tired.
Is Luckenbach dog friendly?
About a week before our trip I cleaned out my t-shirt drawer and told myself I wasn’t getting anymore. That was a lie. After our Wildflower farm stop and before returning to Johnson City, I just had to go to Luckenbach.
Yes, Luckenbach is dog friendly.
It’s kid friendly, too, and a great spot for some really cute photos. The beer is cold and the music is great, but it IS a “dance hall”. It was about 4:30 p.m. when we rolled up for our obligatory tourist stop and t-shirt purchase. It wasn’t overly-crowded, but it was busy. Masks were scarce except on staff.
I’ve been to lots of dog friendly places like this in our travels, and 4-6 p.m. seems to be the transitional time. If you need to visit Willie, Waylon, and The Boys with your dog (or kids), I recommend going before dark. I’m guessing that’s when it might get rowdy. Henri has developed less tolerance for crowds in his old age, and after our Nights of Lights experience in St. Augustine (read that here), I’m much more conscientious of those things.
A Dallas Dog Friendly Pit Stop
If you’re driving through Texas, your first and/or last stop should be Buc-ee’s. If you don’t know what Buc-ee’s is, that is all the more reason to stop. If Walmart and Kum-n-Go got it on in the Tractor Supply parking lot, Buc-ee’s would be their genetically superior baby. They have everything you need for your travels and then some, including grassy areas with dog relief stations for your business..
After paying for gas- which is currently much cheaper in Texas- you’ll go inside for a Slim Jim (but you should get their signature jerky instead) and an Icee. You will come out an hour later with $80.00 worth of stuff you didn’t know you needed, including a Christmas gift for the across the street neighbor that you never actually see.
Dallas was a good pit stop on our eight and half hour drive home. It was also a good excuse to stop for lunch and a trip to the dog friendly Tecovas store to look at boots.
You have to shop for boots when you visit Texas and I’ve been nurturing my love affair with Tecovas for a couple of years. For whatever reason, it’s difficult to find a women’s cowboy boot with a walking heel, a nice skin, and zero bling. Tecovas has them. They also have beautiful leather bags, dog treats, and a bar with canned cocktails.
Just down the street from Tecovas, in the unnamed shopping and dinning district between Lower Greenville and Uptown, is The Porch Restaurant. I called en route to confirm they were dog friendly. Sunday brunch is popular in Dallas. At 1:30, they were on a 45 minute wait. Accounting for not being able to find parking, I made a reservation for the patio at 3:15.
Our table was ready when we arrived and they walked us right through the restaurant to get there. The waitress greeted us with menus and water for Henri. Some people might want their water right away, but if you serve my dog first, this momma will be very happy. The service and food were excellent, and I definitely recommend give them a try.
If you need more things to do with your dog, check out our Dallas adventure from a few years ago. I hate the driving, but I love the area. It’s a two part post; don’t miss the second part. That’s where we tell you about the Katy Trail and a guy we met walking his chicken!
Covid Travel in Texas
The first thing you need to know: Texas is WIDE OPEN! From the Texas Health and Human Services website…
On March 2, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-34 to provide that, in all counties not in an area with high hospitalizations:
- there are no COVID-19-related operating limits for any business or other establishment; and
- individuals are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household, but no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering.
That being said, many of the businesses we visited required masks for entry, and in the ones that didn’t, I repeatedly saw shop owners mask up if a patron entered wearing one. I really appreciate that sort of hospitality.
As for restaurants, some are back to full capacity and some are not, but almost all employees were masked if serving indoors. Since Henri was with me, we were always seated in open air, or at most on a covered patio.
As I said in my previous blog, if planning Covid-era travel be informed, be flexible, be courteous, and be kind. I’ll add to that “be patient“. Many restaurants are short-staffed and/or having delivery problems, right now. If you can’t be nice, just stay home.
La Quinta Updates
La Quinta has always been our go to for a quick overnight stay when on the road. Wherever we were, I could count on them to be dog friendly without restrictions and without pet fees. Since the purchase of La Quinta by Wyndham in 2018 (and maybe due to Covid), that reliability and brand consistency has changed.
While most La Quinta’s are still pet friendly, many of the hotels now have weight limits and/or charge pet fees. The hotel in Hattisburg will waive your pet fee if you are a Wyndham rewards member, but the hotel in Marble Falls will not. Additionally, according the paperwork I signed upon check-in at Marble Falls, there was a 30 lb weight limit. I was not told this on the phone, and thankfully, it was not a problem at check-in. I have no idea when exceptions can/will be made.
When traveling with Henri, I no longer rely on website information and I always avoid third party bookings. I suggest you call the hotel directly to inquire about the current policy and book your stay accordingly. You can find more information about La Quinta pet policies and their pet friendly locations here.
Though we checked “pictures in bluebonnets” off our list, there was so much that we missed. You just can’t do Hill Country in two days.
You can count on us for return visit, though. We’ll go in the fall or again next spring, but Texas is a hard pass in the summer unless someone wants to take me floating on the Guadalupe. Henri will stay home for that!
Happy tails, y’all!